Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 9th, 1998

Opening Day!

Whether it's on a stream, lake or tailwater, my heart beats a little faster at the thought. Trout fishing season has a way of creeping up on you. In many places snow is still on the ground. Ice crinkles the edges of lakes. Your mind tells you, "It can't be spring yet."

Ah, but it is. Get out your favorite rod. Clean it from tip to grip. A little lava soap and a sponge will do wonders for the cork. (So much you may think you have a new rod.) Dig out your reel. Take it apart, clean it, and apply a light oil to the moving parts. Most important, clean and treat your fly line.

Find a spot where you can string the line out. Between a couple of trees will do. My husband, Castwell, has even run the line from door knob to door knob, causing a spider web of line through the house. Once the line is strung out, run your hand along the line and inspect it. Any nicks, breaks or crummy spots? If so, replace the line. There are a ton of new ones on the market. Most of the new lines are in the 'special purpose' category. Check them out, you may find an even better one for your use.

We fish year-round. Unfortunate in a way. I miss the magic of opening day as we once knew it. Castwell and I grew up fishing in Michigan. Opening day was always the third Saturday in April. Something about the cycle of the moon as I recall. The weather was usually too cold, the water too high, and the fishing the poorest of the year. Nymph fishermen had a little better time of it, but those of us who chose to fish dry flies had little to brag about.

Some of the real fishing nuts would take a trip to their favorite stream a week or so before opening to scout it out. Probably a useless endeavor, but a lot of wives were glad to get the men folk out of the house. Reports would filter in. "High and muddy." "There are more trees down this year." "There was some construction, and the stream has narrowed down." Doom and gloom.

But we went anyway. Roads into campgrounds could be awful. If there was late snow, some camps would not even be open. Backroads into the best secret spots were impassable mud holes. If the weather had been unseasonably warm, the early hatches would already be over. Weather forecasts were listened to with expectation. Sunshine? We hoped. Nothing worse than fighting rotten conditions to get there, and then have to fish in a cold, unrelenting rain. An opener is always chancy at best.

The faithful were always there. Rarely did we plan on fishing with any certain people. It just happened. An annual renewal of friendships, catching up, and comparing notes. Same-minded people sharing the riches of the time and place.

Our favorite spot was a place on the main stream of Michigan's AuSable River called Keystone Landing. It's a large campground, with lots of pines and a superb view of the river. We fished right there, and took forays to other branches of the AuSable. Conditions might be better somewhere else. Sort of like the grass is greener. Mostly the whole region was the same, but it was all part of the ritual.

None of opening day is about catching fish. You probably figured that out by now. It is about hope, and a celebration of spring. Or at least having gotten through another winter. It is a time to renew old friendships, and to renew our own spirit. Feeling the water flowing around a pair of waders is a reassurance that the river and our lives continues on. We know the fishing will improve. There is faith that our own lots in life will improve too. And so they have. ~ LadyFisher

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